First, Yahoo! revamped its logo, then Google, and Bing followed suite. Next, Google announced a new algorithm, called Hummingbird, making a big deal about redesigning its search engine for a better mobile experience. Both Hummingbird and the redesign are mere noise, from a company that struggles to keep relevant as Internet users are moving to smart devices. A company which, by all signals, is hemorrhaging cash – but this, in a future analysis.
Hummingbird, which aims to be a “conversational engine” based on “intelligent” natural language search, fails lamentably to deliver on its promise. The mobile UI is still stuck in the stone ages, delivering relevant results only for specific niches, like hospitality, local businesses (provided that they are registered with Google Local) and so on.
Bing, on the other hand, does one thing right, but only if you get the new Windows 8.1. Bing Smart Search for Windows 8.1 was announced by Kieran Snyder, Group Program Manager in the Bing User Experience team. A Bing/Windows collaboration led to what we can safely consider the most enticing search experience to date, as Snyder described it, the best of Bing web search all in one place. Smart Search lets you simply swipe or type to find everything, whether it is a document on your PC, an app you downloaded months ago, a picture stored in SkyDrive or a website.
Bing Smart Search is leveraging Satori, a Bing feature similar to Google’s Knowledge Graph (which, incidentally, is heavily used by Hummingbird), to tackle the constant changing nature of the web. According to Snyder:
Satori includes hundreds of millions of entities and understand billions of points of information linking them together. Satori provides the foundation for our Snapshot experiences on Bing.com, so that when you search for your favorite celebrity or famous landmark, you get an arrangement of facts, biographical information, images and other key information in addition to the most relevant web results.
With Smart Search we dynamically reflect the ever-changing web, we can learn what’s popular and what’s not, we can try out new experiences to see how well people like them, and we can improve your experience daily. This is the largest-scale investment in server-side development for Windows that Microsoft has ever made.
But what Bing Smart Search truly does, beyond details only interesting for geeks, is providing a flawless search experience for the user, a leap forward Google only dreams about. In the video below, you can see a short explanation of how things work.
Bing Smart Search is now the most complete search experience available, and while Google maintains supremacy, merely because of user habits, rather than quality, it is time for us all to rethink innovation beyond brand loyalty. If anyone deserves any accolades for innovation in search, Bing is it. Google is too big, too cocky and too self aware to care about relevance. What Google cares about is its AdWords business, the cash machine, and designed its search results to boost revenue. Google doesn’t deliver search results that are relevant for the user, it delivers ads that are relevant, and tricks Google+ and registered Gmail users by using their profile names and photos in reviews, advertising and other commercial contexts as a default rather than “opt-in” feature.